A trip to Wilco’s hometown to see the legendary Winterlude series of shows (well 3 out of 4 of them), in the past they have used these shows to dip into the “deep cuts” of their now extensive catalogue. On one occasion, they played every song they had ever recorded (over 5 nights), and had also managed 100 unique songs during the last Winterlude. It became clear over the 3 nights that this was not their plan for the 2017 version.
The venue was the beautiful, iconic (and large) Chicago Theatre located in the heart of the “loop” in the downtown area. First night took place on a ridiculously warm day for February with temperature touching 19 degrees C. I went for a run by the Chicago river, had a couple of “happy hour” pints and wandered over to the theatre for my first WIlco show in 18 months. This was also their first show in the US since the election and this was praying on Jeff Tweedy’s mind. They opened with an extremely applicable “Ashes of American Flags”, arguably their best song from their best album (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) which was to be featured heavily over the week. The rest of the 2hr 5 show significantly featured new album Schmilco, the afore mentioned Yankee and A Ghost is Born. Arguably the highlight (as in many shows) was a scintillating “Impossible Germany” with Nels Cline taking the guitar to previously uncharted areas during his 4 minute solo. Tweedy was in fine form exhorting the crowd to rise up against Trump amd it seemed they didn’t need much encouragement.
The following night about half the setlist was changed, and on the third night there were another 5 previously unplayed songs. Every studio album was represented (apart from the collaborations), the winners over the week being Yankee (all but one played), A Ghost is Born and Being There.
Personal highlights over the 3 nights were a singalong “Spiders” encore, a soaring, beautiful “Sunken Treasure” a hootenanny “Misunderstood” and actually pretty much everything. Particularly enjoyed hearing the Schmilco songs live for the first time, Over the 3 nights I wondered if any band can be as versatile as they are, they can play straight country, folk, crunchy Stones-like rock’n’ roll, Beatley ballads, psychedelic freak-outs and a few other genres that I won’t mention. And they play them all brilliantly, special mention for the sensational Nels CLine and the superb drumming of Glenn Kotche. I also think Jeff Tweedy is one of the great songwriters, up there with the very best that the US has ever produced. An extremely memorable week, am now wondering if I should take in a Toronto show in a couple of weeks …
Younger than you might expect
It made me think..
The trip was worth it